Want to try growing pumpkins next year? Its easy as long as you provide some particulars such as space, bright sunny area, adequate water, and patience. Most pumpkin varieties take about 100 days to maturity.
Plan to give each vine at least a 3-foot diameter mound, or hill, of warm, enriched soil. Enrich soil by digging a hole about the size of a bushel basket and working compost, seaweed, or well-rotted manure into the soil you removed from the hole. Avoid adding nitrogen because too much nitrogen causes vines to produce leaves at the expense of flowers.
Pumpkin vines grow aggressively, covering lots of ground. To keep your garden from being engulfed by vines, place plants near the edge of the garden. As vines grow, encourage them to grow toward the outside of the garden. Space transplants 5 feet apart in a row planting, or place them 1 plant per hill.
Plants need ample water when flowers and fruits are forming. Try to water in the early morning, so that any water that splashes onto leaves can soon dry. Wet foliage is more susceptible to fungus, such as powdery mildew. Most vines wilt under the bright, hot afternoon sun, but if foliage is wilting before 11:00 a.m., that’s an indication that they may need water.
Male and female blossoms
The first few flowers on pumpkin vines will be male blooms. Their pollen attracts bees so that when the female blossoms begin to open, the bees will have the pumpkin vines on their daily flight runs. Male flowers last one day, then drop from vines.
Toward the end of the season, remove any leaves that shade ripening pumpkins.Harvest pumpkins before frost. Fruit is ripe when it is fully colored, skin is hard, and the stem begins to shrivel and dry.
To harvest, cut stems with a sharp knife, leaving at least an inch of stem on fruits (more stem is better). Lift pumpkins by slipping your hand under the bottom of the fruit. Never lift a pumpkin by its stem; if the stem breaks, the pumpkin won’t store well.
Before storing, cure pumpkins by setting them in the sun for 10 to 14 days to harden the skin, seal the stem, and improve taste. Dry, warm weather is best; protect curing pumpkins from frosty nights with old blankets or by moving them into a shed or garage. Store cured pumpkins in a cool place, arranging them so they don’t touch.
There are some very unusual looking pumpkins available. One such heirloom variety is Rouge Vif e'Tampes, which is also known by its common name, Cinderella. Another interesting variety is called Lumina, due to its ghostly white skin. Jarrahdale is an Australian heirloom with gorgeous blue, green and silver toned skin. Check out the slideshow to see more exotic pumpkins.
A great place to find seeds for these unusual pumpkins is Botanical Interests. Their website is http://www.botanicalinterests.com/.